The Modern and Contemporary Art auction at Bonhams in London this week will feature 131 full-sized skateboard decks, produced by the streetwear brand Supreme, between 2011-2019. The decks, owned by one private collector, will be sold as a single lot, presumably to a buyer who has a lot of wall space. It’s fascinating that skateboard decks appear to be taken as seriously as some of the paintings and other wall-based artworks in the Bonhams contemporary art sale, with buyers being either avid skateboarders, art collectors or both.
The collection is dominated by decks designed by some of the world’s best-known contemporary artists such as Gilbert & George, the Chapman Brothers, Urs Fischer, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin and Mike Kelley, as well as images from pop culture like Bruce Lee, Marvin Gaye, Harmony Korine, Wu-Tang Clan, The Godfather, Scarface and The Cat in the Hat.
Supreme was founded in New York City in 1994 by James Jebbia who was born in the United States but grew up in the UK. Beginning as a skateboard and clothing shop, Supreme soon developed into a global brand and today also has stores in Los Angeles, Paris, London and Japan. London’s first Supreme store, near Carnaby Street in September 2011, was the first in Europe. James Jebbia has always wanted his stores to be more like an art gallery than a shop. He seeks to create products that are not considered disposable commodities but collectibles. With that in mind it’s no surprise that Supreme soon became well-known for its collaboration with famous artists and working with Takashi Murakami, Christopher Wool and Richard Prince. And the Supreme logo is said to have been inspired by the artist Barbara Kruger.
Some of the most striking decks by artists in the Bonhams sale include a set of five by the Chapman Brothers, created in 2012. Prints from the brothers’ most famous and controversial works like Fuckface, McCheesus and Brothers Grimace are featured. Swiss artist Urs Fisher made three separate decks in 2016, Fried, Toastedand Baked, with a cigarette butt on each skate deck. Cindy Sherman’s two decks, Untitled #181 and Untitled #175, also include disturbing images. Other decks that were attracting attention at the Bonhams preview included one with a striking image based on New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies album cover from 1983 and another featuring an image of the late hip hop frontman Ol’ Dirty Bastard of Wu-Tang Clan. Supreme aren’t the only skateboard manufacturers who’ve commissioned deck designs from artists and skateboard experts. Belgian company The Skateroom sells limited edition decks from well- known artists like Jenny Holzer and works with estates or foundations of Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
With the Bonhams lot having an estimate of £100,000 – £150,000 (about $125,000 – $190,000) in this week’s sale, it’s clear that skateboard decks are viewed as a serious part of the collectibles market, especially skateboards designed by artists. The nostalgia factor – fond memories of a favorite childhood past-time – also plays a part in a desire to buy decks to hang on a wall. Skateboard museums can be found all over the world with Morro Bay Skateboard Museum in California having an impressive permanent collection of all things skateboard related plus ongoing temporary exhibitions with decks on loan from collectors. The popularity of films like Skate Kitchen, inspired by a real-life collective of avid young female skateboarders in New York City, also shows a continued interest in the sport and the colorful skateboards used. Will the buyer of the 131 skateboard decks this week be someone who actually knows how to use a skateboard or not? Either way, it will be interesting to see how much the lot sells for. Sotheby’s sold a set of 248 Supreme skate decks to a Vancouver collector earlier this year for $800,000 (£630,000) so there’s a good chance that the £150,000 estimate is on the low side.
The Modern and Contemporary Art Sale featuring the Supreme skateboard decks will start at 16:00 BST at Bonhams on Thursday 27 June.